Sick Pennsylvanians Are Out of Time: SB 1182 and Politics

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Pennsylvania’s Compassionate Use Act, Senate Bill 1182, will legalize medicinal marijuana for critically ill Pennsylvanians. The bill stands poised to pass the Pennsylvania Senate with widespread bi-partisan support. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously in June. The bill’s prime sponsors, State Senators Daylin Leach (D – Montgomery) and Mike Folmer (R – Lebanon) count as many as 45 out of 50 votes in the Senate. The bill will be considered by the Appropriations Committee today, September 22.

The Compassionate Use Act must also pass the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and its likelihood of doing so declines every day as time is running out in the 2014 legislative session. Speaker of the House Mike Turzai is open to considering the bill but believes House Committee hearings are needed before consideration on the House floor. If this does not happen in the Legislature’s few remaining working days, it will need to be reintroduced in 2015 and the entire process begun anew.

Despite a recent Franklin & Marshall poll showing 83% support for medicinal marijuana in PA, despite two comprehensive hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee that involved 2 dozen witnesses including doctors, patients, lawyers and industry experts and despite a near veto proof majority in BOTH Houses sick Pennsylvanians may be forced to wait.

Advocates have been told that the privatization of liquor stores is a legislative priority. Supporters tout tax revenue from increased liquor sales in private stores. So, while critically ill children and their families are forced to consider either fleeing Pennsylvania or becoming felons, we can rest assured that the Commonwealth is making more tax revenue from the sale of and abuse of alcohol.

Senate Bill 1182 has been described as “one of the best bills” regulating medicinal marijuana. It is comprehensive in that it lays out the framework for a strictly controlled regulatory scheme. It creates a “Marijuana Advisory Board” responsible for promulgating application procedures and regulations, and tasks the PA State Police with enforcement. The bill does not permit public smoking of marijuana, and it requires a bona fide physician patient relationship to address concerns of “doctor shopping.”

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia permit medical marijuana in some form. Tens of millions of Americans have the option of discussing cannabis treatment with their physicians. The Veterans Administration permits cannabis use in states that have medicinal programs. Thousands of peer reviewed papers have been published discussing the medical efficacy of cannabis, and literally hundreds of controlled clinical studies of the type submitted for FDA review have demonstrated its incredible potential in controlling diabetes, relieving chronic neuropathic pain, controlling seizure disorder, relieving side effects of chemotherapy and anti-retro viral drugs, treating PTSD and other mental health conditions, and even acting as a neuro-protectant, which explains why the United States holds patent 6630507 which states “The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

Sick Pennsylvanians cannot wait another day.

Patrick K. Nightingale, Esquire
Executive Director Pittsburgh NORML

Photo Credit: By unknown employee of HS Parsons & Co. under public domain via Wikimedia Commons